- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In a surprising twist at the end of a long trial, a District of Columbia judge found Mark Witaschek guilty of “attempted possession of unlawful ammunition” for antique replica muzzleloader bullets.

Judge Robert Morin sentenced Mr. Witaschek to time served, a $50 fine and required him to enroll with the Metropolitan Police Department’s firearm offenders’ registry within 48 hours.

Outside the courtroom, I asked Mr. Witaschek how he felt about the verdict. “I’m completely outraged by it,” he said. “This is just a continuation of the nightmare. Just to sit there. I could not believe it.”


SEE ALSO: VIDEO: Emily Miller on Fox News about Mark Witaschek guilty verdict for muzzleloader bullets in D.C.


Shaking his head, he added, “None of these people know anything about gun issues, including the judge.”

His wife Bonnie Witaschek was crying. “It’s just so scary,” she said. “You never think you’ll end up in a situation like this, but here we are.”

Mr. Witaschek’s attorney Howard X. McEachern shook his client’s hand and said, “We’re not done.” Mr. McEachern plans to appeal the decision.

I asked the defense attorney for his opinion of the verdict. “Clearly the judge thought that this was overkill the sentence reflects how he felt about the prosecution of this case,” he replied.

Click here to read about the first half of the day of trial when Mr. Witaschek took the stand in his own defense.

Until the final hours of the trial, both the defense and government focused the case on whether the single 12 gauge shotgun shell that was found in Mr. Witaschek’s D.C. home was operable. The judge, however, never ruled on it.

In the afternoon on Wednesday, Judge Morin shook the plastic shell and tried to listen to something inside. He said he could not hear any gunpowder. He then asked the lawyers to open the shell to see if there was powder inside.

(This seemed like a bizarre request since the lack of primer — not gunpowder — would be relevant to the interoperability of the misfired shell.)

Assistant Attorney General Peter Saba said that the government wanted to open the shell but that, “It is dangerous to do outside a lab.”

The prosecutors and police officers left the courtroom to try to find a lab that was open in the afternoon to bring the judge to cut the plastic off the section that holds the pellets. When that proved not possible in the same day, the judge decided to just rule on the bullets.

The 25 conical-shaped, .45 caliber bullets, made by Knight out of lead and copper, sat on the judge’s desk. They do not have primer or gunpowder so cannot be propelled. The matching .50 caliber plastic sabots were also in the box.

There was much debate over whether the bullets were legal since D.C. residents are allowed to buy antique replica firearms without registering.

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